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EDITORIAL: PTI Chairman Imran Khan has stopped his National Assembly party lawmakers from verifying their resignations tendered en masse in April by appearing before the present Speaker, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

“We have already resigned and an announcement (in this regard) was made on the floor of the National Assembly in this regard,” he said, adding returning to the assembly would give an impression that the PTI had accepted an “imported government”. He also warned his party lawmakers from appearing before the Speaker for verification, for which the assembly secretariat has issued an order.

On the very face of it, the Khan’s order is a negation of the rules governing a resignation. Under Article 64(1) any member may, “by writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker resign his seat”. Also, under Article 64(2) the House may declare the seat of a member vacant if, without leave of the House, he remains absent for forty consecutive days of its sittings. Where does Imran Khan’s order to his members exists in this constitutional backdrop? The conundrum as it stands today poses three questions.

One, was the manner in which the resignations were offered in line with the constitutional mandate as spelt out in Article 64? That doesn’t seem to be the case: the resignation letters were not handwritten; these were typed on the letterhead of the party and certain similarities between the shapes of signatures were said to have been detected.

An answer to this question offered by the PTI leadership is that since the resignations were tendered en masse on the floor of the assembly these should be accepted collectively instead of their verification at individual level.

Two, where does figure the claim of the then Deputy Speaker, Qasim Suri, that the resignation process was over as the PTI members staged en masse walkout claiming they have resigned, and he accepted their move as resignations? Three, what would be the Speaker’s position in case those who offered to resign don’t turn up to verify their action? Can he send the unverified resignations to the Election Commission of Pakistan for declaration that seats of all those 131 members who resigned en masse are vacant and due for by-elections?

Of course the conundrum besetting the legitimacy of the en masse resignations and their acceptance is a huge challenge for the government, but so is it for the PTI leadership.

The question is if its lawmakers have resigned and that is final then why don’t its members vacate official residences and surrender cars and other benefits that they enjoyed being members of the National Assembly? Is it because, as a PTI stalwart, Fawad Chaudhry, is on record having said, why they should return these benefits or allowances to an “imported government”? Or is it that the PTI’s resignation gimmick is humming the familiar tune? In 2014 as well, the PTI members of the National Assembly ‘resigned’ en masse, staged a sit-in at the D-Chowk for 126 days and then climbed down from the container, took their seats in the National Assembly and didn’t hesitate to receive arrears of salaries and other benefits for the sittings they were not there in the House.

Perhaps, as some well-informed people say, the PTI’s collective resignation move doesn’t sit well with a fairly large number of its lawmakers. They don’t want to give up what is in their hands as bargain for the future which for many of them is uncertain, and more so now when allegedly evidence of the party leadership’s colossal failure on myriad national fronts is getting confirmed by the day.

As we said in this space before, Imran Khan should revisit his decision to stay put. He should return to parliament and showcase his mettle as a viable democratic option before the nation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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